Towson men's soccer stays goal-oriented heading into tourney

The Colonial Athletic Association men's soccer tournament begins today, but Towson University's team won't be making an early appearance. And that's a good thing for the Tigers.

After one of the most successful seasons in school history, Towson (14-1-2) has earned the No. 1 seed for postseason league play and an automatic jump into the semifinals Friday night in Virginia Beach, Va.


A victory in the semifinals over the survivor of the George Mason-Northeastern match would probably assure the Tigers of their first berth in the NCAA tournament since 2001 because they captured the regular-season title with a 10-0-1 conference record, the most victories ever by a CAA team in league play.

All this from a squad that was picked to finish seventh in the league.


"We set the No. 1 seed as a goal, and we reached it," said co-captain Andrew Marshall (Centennial). "Having that bye is very important because it gives you the rest while other teams beat each other up a little bit. It's definitely beneficial."

Marshall, a senior, is one of the bulwarks of a defense that is the team's cornerstone. Towson's rotating goalkeepers, Billy Chiles and Greg Flaherty, have allowed only 10 goals all season (0.59 goals-against average), and three of those came in the Tigers' lone defeat, a 3-2 overtime loss at Hartwick on Sept. 10 that served as the rallying point.

"That loss bothered a lot of people," Marshall said. "We knew we could have played better and won. We didn't want to feel that way again."

They didn't. Towson went unbeaten in its last 12 matches, winning the final 10 and shutting out seven opponents over that stretch. The surge carried the team to a No. 17 ranking in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll. Only reigning national champion Maryland and Virginia are ranked higher in the South Atlantic region.

"The key to this team is our camaraderie," said Flaherty, another senior. "A lot of us have been here three, four or five years, and we set our goals a long time ago. The defense is a team thing, a process. Hard work is paying off."

"The senior leadership is the big thing, and the defense is always keeping us in games," added Pat Healey (Calvert Hall), a junior whose father, Kevin, is the president-general manager of the Blast. "What we want is to win the league to tell the NCAA committee we're one of the top 16 teams in the country."

That would not leave anything to chance because the CAA champion gets an automatic bid to the national tournament.

If they win out through this weekend, the Tigers would break the school record for the longest single-season winning streak (the 1934 team was 11-0) and equal the highest win total ever achieved by the program (the 2001 team finished 16-5-1).


Offensively, the leader is senior Sebastian Haensel of Leipzig, Germany, with seven goals and seven assists. Six of his goals have won games, the most recent in the regular-season finale, in double overtime at George Mason. Healey and junior Angus Burke, from British Columbia, have four goals and two assists apiece.

Another British Columbia native, Nigel Marples, and Marshall orchestrate the defense.

Veteran coach Frank Olszewski, who took over in 1982 and has mentored the Tigers through four different conference affiliations, is clearly the front-runner for CAA Coach of the Year.

Olszewski rated this team "right at the top of the list" of his most talented at Towson. "We've got a pretty diverse group and tremendous senior leadership," he said.

"Our goal is always to deny the other team from scoring," Marshall said. "We get a lot of satisfaction out of doing that. If we can get that job done, we're in good shape."


CAA, ACC tournaments

Schedules for the Colonial Athletic Association and Atlantic Coast Conference men's soccer tournaments:


Today's quarterfinals

No. 6 UNC Wilmington at No. 3 Old Dominion, 7 No. 5 Northeastern at No. 4 George Mason, 7

Friday's semifinals


At Virginia Beach (Va.) Sportsplex No. 1 Towson vs. George Mason/Northeastern, 5 No. 2 Hofstra vs. UNC Wilmington/Old Dominion, 7:30

Sunday's final

At Virginia Beach (Va.) Sportsplex Semifinal winners, 2:30


At Maryland SoccerPlex, Germantown

Today's play-in game


No. 8 Virginia Tech vs. No. 9 N.C. State, 1

Tomorrow's quarterfinals

No. 2 Wake Forest vs. No. 7 North Carolina, noon No. 1 Duke vs. Virginia Tech/N.C. State, 2:30 No. 3 Virginia vs. No. 6 Clemson, 5:30 No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 5 Boston College, 8

Friday's semifinals

Wake Forest/North Carolina vs. Virginia/Clemson, 5:30 Duke/Virginia Tech/N.C. State vs. Maryland/BC, 8

Sunday's final


Semifinal winners, 1:10